Here’s a verse that perplexes some folk:
No one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, “The old is good enough.” (Luke 5:39)
If the new wine is the new covenant, why would anyone prefer the old? People go with the law only because they haven’t tried grace right?
The new covenant is better in every way – the Bible says so. Surely no one who has tried both would prefer the old. It doesn’t make sense.
But it makes perfect sense to someone like me.
The obsolete covenant
Those of us who use desktop PCs occasionally get messages that say “this program is no longer supported by the developer.” This means the program has become obsolete, and we are supposed to download the newer and better replacement. Obsolete does not mean the program has stopped working, but it does mean we will no longer get support from the people who made it.
The problem is some people resist change. If the old program is still working, we won’t replace it. We’ll keep using the old email program or the old browser and ignore the persistent reminders to upgrade.
At first this is not a problem. Everything seems to operate as normal. But the end result is invariably heartache and distress. “Where did all my emails go?”
If you’re accustomed to Moses, you won’t see your need for Jesus. If your liquor is law, you won’t guzzle grace. This is why Jesus said sinners were entering the kingdom ahead of the religious (Matthew 21:31). Unacquainted with the old wine of rule-keeping and proper behavior, the the tax collectors and prostitutes were more than ready to imbibe the new wine of unconditional love and acceptance.
No one puts new wine into old wineskins lest the new wine will burst the skins and be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. (Luke 5:37–38)
Almost every time Jesus engaged with the priests in the temple, there was conflict and aggravation. The new wine wouldn’t go into the old bottle. The new wine needed a new bottle, a new temple of the Holy Spirit.
No doubt many of the priests breathed a sigh of relief when Jesus died. “Finally we can get back to the way we’ve always done things.” The old covenant had been replaced by the new, but they weren’t interested in upgrading.
“The old is good enough”
Pause for a moment and reflect on the audacity of that statement: The old is good enough. In other words, Jesus died for nothing.
Every penitent who brought an animal to the temple and every priest who killed it was essentially saying, “God, your Son’s sacrifice means nothing to me.” What an offense to heaven. What a slap in the face of the Savior.
But no lightning bolts fell, and the ground did not open up and swallow these blasphemers.
When Aaron’s sons brought an unauthorized offering into the tabernacle, fire from God consumed them (Lev. 10:1–2). Nadab and Abihu died as screaming, burning testimonies to the seriousness of sin. But that was under the old covenant.
Now in the new covenant, priests who brought unauthorized sacrifices went home unharmed. They didn’t know it but the old priests were living testimonies of God’s grace.
Had the old covenant still been in effect, there could have been fire and screaming. There would have been one animal sacrifice and no more. But the old covenant was finished, so unauthorized and blasphemous sacrifices continued for years.
But he, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. (Heb. 10:12)
Jesus sat down but the Jews remained standing for there are no chairs in the temple. For 40 years they carried on with their religious rituals as though nothing had changed when everything had changed. The proof is God never judged them, not in AD30, nor in AD70.
How could he when their sin had been borne by the Savior they rejected?